When you’re a family-owned, independent shop trying to survive in a world of MSOs and consolidators, what’s the best way to level the playing field? For Action Collision in Troy, Mich., here’s the solution: Delight your clientele with high-quality work, and deliver personal touches that shatter expectations – and turn customers into friends.
Recognizing that collisions are a traumatic, once-in-a-lifetime event for most drivers, Action Collision shepherds customers through the process with “over-the-top” communication and the kind of professional touches that you might expect from a luxury retailer – not a body shop.
For example, Action Collision has three detailers on staff (two do it full-time, while one has additional responsibilities), who meticulously clean and polish every finished vehicle.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a bumper job or a $20,000 front-end hit,” says owner Matt McNabb. “Every car gets thoroughly cleaned, inside and out. Most people tell us, ‘My car has never looked so good.’”
Within 48 hours of every job, Action Collision follows up with a phone call to each customer, to ensure that they’re 100 percent satisfied with the work. Thirty days after receiving their vehicle, customers can come back for a free wash and wax – and most do.
“When you look at all the consolidation taking place, the big guys are gaining footprint,” McNabb says. “They have a lot of control in this industry. But what they don’t have is the personal communication that we have as a family business.”
‘They’re Not Customers – They’re Friends’
McNabb and his father, George, started the business in 1987. His sister, Marie Kozey, is the office manager, and her son, Mike Kozey, is the general manager. Even as Action Collision approaches its 30th anniversary (on Feb. 18), Matt McNabb remembers the shop’s humble start like it was yesterday.
“We started working in the garage and then moved into a 2,000-square-foot building,” McNabb recalls. “We had one spraybooth, a power post and some estimating books – that was state-of-the-art in 1987.”
Today, Action Collision has 20 employees and operates out of two adjacent facilities that total 36,000 square feet, repairing more than 120 vehicles a month.
“I was bumping and painting cars when I was 14 years old,” McNabb says. “Before I even had a license, I was painting the vice principal’s car. It was never about money for us – it was just a passion for working on cars.”
While that passion has been there from the start, the customer service component has evolved over the years, as they’ve realized that the little things are big things when it comes to customer satisfaction. That’s why Action Collision conducts a rigorous post-repair inspection not only to ensure that the vehicle has been repaired properly, but also to make sure that dashboard lights and other items are back to their pre-accident settings.
“Those are things that we’ve learned are an inconvenience to people, especially if they have to bring their vehicle back,” McNabb says. “We’ve learned to make sure that when they get their car back, nothing is out of place.”
They’ve also learned that most customers want to know how long it’s going to take to repair their vehicle, and where their vehicle is in the process. Action Collision has a dedicated staffer who provides those updates to customers as often as they’d like, and via the medium of their choice – phone call, text or email.
“They’re comfortable when they come here,” Marie Kozey says. “That’s the biggest relief you can have, because no one wants to go to the dentist or come here. If you can get somebody in the door and make them feel at ease, and they know you’re going to take care of everything and do a good job, then they come back and refer their friends and family. That’s the biggest compliment a shop can get.”
She adds: “We’ve made a lot of friends here. They’re not customers – they’re friends.”
It’s not hard to see why. Kozey and McNabb recall staying until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve to complete a job so a customer wouldn’t have to cancel a trip planned for Christmas morning. They also have learned the value of making very minor repairs – from a burned-out headlight bulb to a scratch that needs buffed out – for no charge.
“When we can do something for free, people are amazed, and they never forget it,” Kozey says. “That’s another marketing tool that costs us a little but, but it in the long run, it pays off.”
A Place to Say ‘Hi’
Action Collision has been at the same address for nearly 30 years. But up until a few years ago, the business was crammed into a 7,000-square-foot facility, using an additional building around the corner for office space and “overflow,” according to McNabb.
“We ran out of room at our 7,000-square-foot building probably 10 years ago,” McNabb explains. “We were running double shifts. We had one booth and three painters, and they had to alternate. One guy would leave at 1 in the morning, and the other painter would start at 5 (a.m.). So our biggest bottleneck was the constant shuffling of cars.”
When a 29,000-square-foot building became available next door in 2014, Action Collision snatched it up and renovated it. That gave them ample space for their repair operations and enabled them to consolidate the office staff into a 4,000-square-foot office/reception area that boasts a fireplace, cappuccino maker, granite countertops, polished concrete floors and leather furniture. And yes, the reception area has free Wi-Fi.
The new facility has made an impression on new and returning customers.
“People brought us cookies and donuts when we moved into the new place,” Kozey says. “They’re happy for us. They come in just to sit at the coffee bar. They don’t feel like they’re just walking into a business where they have to bring their car. They feel like this is a place where they can stop in and say ‘hi.’”
At a Glance
Location: Troy, Mich.
When established: 1987
Square footage: 36,000 (32,000 is production)
Owner: Matt McNabb
Repair volume/number of cars per month: 120+
Average repair cost: $2,900
DRPs: Allstate, Encompass, Esurance, Frankenmuth, Farm Bureau, Ameriprise, AAA; also a member of Open Shop, which includes Farmers, Liberty Mutual, Travelers, Amica
Number of Employees: (20) – 6 body techs, 2 detailers, 3 painters, 4 office staff, 3 estimators, 1 shop foreman, 1 parts person
Behind the Bays
Scheduling system: In-house
Estimating system: CCC1
Prep Station: GFC
Spray Booth: GFC
Lifts: 2 Challengers
Computerized measuring system: 3 Chief Velocity systems
Straightening system: 7 Chief
Welders: Pro Spot